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Warning, Baseball Talk Ahead

2002 was the year the Minnesota Twins started winning again, after nearly a decade of futility. It was also the year my baseball fandom came alive again.

It had laid dormant since 1991, the last time the Twins won the World Series. I was as much a baseball nut as an 11 year old could be then -- reading box scores every day, buying baseball cards, etc. And being a fan in 2002 is a lot more fun than it was in 1991 -- not only because I was older and could understand the game better, but also because of the Internet, where it was easy to watch highlights and read commentary. The MLB page at ESPN.com became a regular stopping spot, especially after a long day of student teaching.

You have to understand that this was pretty strange for me. I had developed that oh-so-liberal hatred for all professional sports, deeming them lunkheaded, mindless and money grubbing. So to suddenly be paying rapt attention to a bunch of grown men playing a children's game for millions of dollars -- and enjoying it -- was kind of a new experience. I didn't remember at that point how much my father's love for the game had rubbed off on me at an impressionable age.

At this point there was a left handed pitcher on the team who was mostly used in relief. His name was Johan Santana. I knew very little about baseball analysis, so I didn't really know much about him other than he seemed to be really good, if a bit raw. He did not seem to be very noteworthy, even on his own team. That was enough for me to make him one of my favorite players.

Anyway, at the time, I thought that would be it. I was just going to follow the Twins. I didn't really care about any other teams or who was good on them. Little did I know. By the time I met Samantha in 2004 and proclaimed that I "really only followed the Twins," I was already so far gone that she recognized this as blatant falsehood, even only a month or two after we had met.

Today I'm pretty much a nut again, except far far worse than I was when I was 11. There's a pretty good chance I can tell you the starting lineup and at least three starting pitchers for any of the 30 major league teams. I can tell you what almost any baseball statistic created means and how it can be used to evaluate a player's abilities. I even play fantasy baseball -- and pretty well, given my 1st place finish in two of the three leagues I've played in.

And lo and behold, Johan Santana developed into the best pitcher in baseball. I watched him go from good to better to unbelievable in such a short amount of time, and completely ecstatic when he won his first Cy Young award in 2004. He's a big reason why the Twins have remained competitive for the last six years and a big reason I follow them as rabidly as I do.

As you can probably tell, the point of all this is that Santana is rather entwined in my baseball fandom. Which is why, when he was traded to the New York Mets last week, I took it a little harder than most baseball transactions. The strange thing is that I completely understand why it had to happen, perhaps better than most. But that didn't really make it better -- in fact, it might have made it worse. Because it betrays one of the many flaws with the sport, one what I was aware of even before I became a fan again -- that it all comes down to money. There's no other reason why the Twins would trade away the best player in baseball, and it's hard to swallow that that reason should be paramount over any others.

It was enough to make me question why I spend so much time and energy on this stupid game. I think this may have been how people felt following the 1994 player's strike. I'm guessing this feeling will pass, especially when I start seeing photos from spring training. But it's a reminder that nothing in this world that we love is perfect -- oftentimes there are things about them that we hate. I guess that's what makes our love for them all the more meaningful.

Man, leave it to me to get all metaphysical about baseball. Anyway. 13 days until pitchers and catchers report!


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 4, 2008 4:46 PM.

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